Spending Review: Social Housing

25 October 2010
The issue of housing is already proving to be something of a political battleground following last weeks Comprehensive Spending review.

Critics have hit out at the reduced funds for building social housing, while ministers have insisted that a target of over 100,000 new affordable homes will be completed over the course of the parliament.

Continuing our analysis of the multitude of claims in last week's spending review statement we look at some of the points put across by George Osborne about social housing.

"Over ten years, more than half a million social rented properties were lost."

According to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) this broadly checks out.

Taking the statistics for the number of homes sold off but not transferred to housing associations between 1999-00 and 2009-10, 407,310 homes were 'lost' as the Chancellor put it.

When this is added to the 94,360 sold by registered landlords over the same period, it produces a total figure of 501,670.

However this is a gross figure rather than a net figure, and ignores additions to the socially rented and affordable housing stock over the period.

Government ministers have been citing figures to show that during Labour's time in office there was only a slight net gain of affordable (that is to say more than simply social rented) housing over the period.

In a Today Programme interview the morning after the spending review Mr Osborne quoted a figure of 18,000 for Labour's sum contribution to the affordable housing stock. Yet a matter of hours later in the Commons Housing Minister Grant Shapps had downgraded this to 14,000.

Since then we have been in contact with DCLG to establish net affordable and social housing figures over the period in question, but are still awaiting all the figures we require.

As far as the socially rented homes are concerned only 205,280 were completed between 1999 and 2009, meaning that even when the net figure is considered, there was still a significant decline in the number of socially rented homes in the last ten years of Labour's time in office.

However it is worth keeping in mind that this was not only the gross reduction, but is also largely accounted for by purchases under the 'right to buy' scheme.

Verdict: True

"And while a generation ago only one in ten families in social housing had no-one working, this had risen to one in three by 2008-09."

This claim is much harder to validate. Leaving aside how one categorises a 'generation', there are no official statistics published on the matter, at least not by the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

This is not to say, however that there are necessarily grounds to be suspicious about the number at this stage.

While the ONS workless households statistical series does not breakdown workless households by type of housing tenure,  we were told this is something they are looking into doing in the future.

For the time being the only research from our national statisticians on the issue actually goes further than the Chancellor, estimating, in research published this year that 48.6 per cent of households living in socially rented properties were workless.

Naturally we'd like to see the Chancellor's working before giving this one the all clear, and we hope to update with the Treasury's figures as and when we get them.

Verdict: The jury's out…

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